Why isn't my cat hungry?
August 26, 2007 5:35 AM   Subscribe

What could have caused my cat's sudden lack of appetite?

We've been feeding our cat Wellness Complete Health - Salmon, Salmon Meal and Deboned Turkey (dry food) for about 2 months now. She usually eats very enthusiastically for a few minutes just after feeding then leaves it and comes back to finish it later on.

Literally overnight this has changed. She no longer will eat the Wellness food. She is still acting the same though - running around and playing but she won't eat the food. She does, however perk up when we start to get her food and follow us to the kitchen, but when presented the food, she sniffs at it then leaves the room. She will eat wet food, but not with the same enthusiasm as wet food usually gets from her. She's still drinking water with no problem.

She's vomited twice since this started (2 days ago) but only water. She's a year and a couple months old if that can make a difference.

The Wellness food we bought her says it expires in May 2008 but we've been feeding her from the same (large) bag for the 2 months.

Any ideas as to what the problem could be?
posted by Newbornstranger to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
I would take her to the vet. Any change in appetite and/or vomiting are usually symptoms of a health problem.
posted by Nematoda at 6:02 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Take her to the vet - a cat not eating could be a big problem, and that goes double when there's vomiting involved. It could be a painful infected tooth, a serious kidney problem, all sorts of things. Cats are hard to figure out on your own. The vet will work it out.
posted by andraste at 6:18 AM on August 26, 2007

Nthing the vet, bad tooth, but also suspect that the dry food may have fermented a bit. Two months...do you keep it refrigerated?
posted by Gungho at 6:30 AM on August 26, 2007

I had a similar problem with one of my cats recently, too. Twice, now that I think about it -- once when he was about your cat's age and then earlier this spring. The first time it happened, the problem cleared itself up without going to the vet.

This most recent time: He was about 7.5 years old and stopped eating out of nowhere. He'd nibble a little bit here and there, but he wasn't taking in nearly enough. I'm pretty sure he puked water once or twice. Energy levels, mood, etc. weren't changed. He I took him to the vet after 3 or 4 days of this, but the vet didn't find anything wrong with him. The vet chalked it up to just a finicky cat phase and told me not to worry. The next day, my cat started eating regularly again.

My point is -- definitely take your cat to the vet, but don't freak out too much about it.
posted by puritycontrol at 6:55 AM on August 26, 2007

I have 2 cats, aged 5 and 9, and I echo what puritycontrol has said. Sometimes my cats eat heaps, and sometimes they go for days where they hardly eat a thing.

I also had a problem with the older cat vomiting a lot over a two week period so I took her to the vet, but she checked out fine, we just put her on a Seniors cat diet after that and she has been much better. So it could possibly be the wrong diet for your cat's current age that's making her sick and picky? Or possibly she's just bored with her normal food?

If you're concerned I'd definately take her to the vet, but if you think she's mostly ok maybe try feeding her a different brand of food, and a little more wet food than usual and see if she perks up at that. Good luck, I hope she's better soon!
posted by katala at 7:20 AM on August 26, 2007

Unlike most mammals, cats can voluntarily starve themselves indefinitely despite being presented with palatable food, even a food which they had previously readily consumed. This can happen when the vomeronasal or Jacobson's organ becomes accustomed to a specific food, or if the cats are spoiled by their owners, in which case the cat will reject any food that does not fit the pattern it is expecting. It is also known for cats to merely become bored with their given food and decide to stop eating until they are tempted into eating again. Although it is extremely rare for a cat to deliberately starve itself to the point of injury, the sudden loss of weight can cause a fatal condition called hepatic lipidosis, a liver dysfunction which causes pathological loss of appetite and reinforces the starvation, which can lead to death within as little as 48 hours.

posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:33 AM on August 26, 2007

Please take your cat to the vet. My cat stopped eating last year and did develop hepatic lipidosis. He's ok now, but the experience was pretty scary. The fatty liver disease made him nauseated, which made him not want to eat, which made things worse, etc. In some cases, cats have to be tube-fed to recover.

I hope it's just a temporary food dislike, and not a major medical problem, but it's better to be safe than sorry in this situation.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2007

I nth the vet suggestion, but it's probably been pretty hot where you are, and a healthy cat can sometimes lose appetite temporarily in the heat. Make sure there's plenty of fresh water available till you can get to a vet.
posted by zadcat at 12:03 PM on August 26, 2007

I second zadcat -my cats also lose their appetites in the heat (and it never gets THAT hot in San Diego - a couple days around 85-90 were enough to put them off their food.) When it cooled down, they started eating normally again. If she's still eating some wet food so that she's got something in her system, I wouldn't worry about the dry food until it cools off.
posted by ilyanassa at 2:21 PM on August 26, 2007

Take cat to vet. Cat illnesses can be hard to diagnose and this could point to any number of things, but the lack of appetite combined with the vomiting is a problem. In the case of ours, it turned out (probably, we never found out for sure) to be toxoplasmosis. After a month of antibiotics and whatnot, he returned to normal.
posted by beagle at 6:01 PM on August 26, 2007

I'd agree with everyone else suggesting you take the cat to the vet, especially if this is the first time this has happened. But I also wanted to add my two cents on hairballs.

My cat is very little, a fastidious groomer, and gets tons of hairballs. Her appetite will fall off for a day or two, she'll get pissy, cough, vomit a few times, and then bring it up. Now if I see her coughing and getting finicky I feed her some hairball treats (which include laxatone or similar substances) that help... smooth the hairball's exit process, shall we say.

(Your description just made me think of hairballs because my cat does the same thing when she's got one: still active, drinks water, no lethargy, interested in food time, but just won't eat.)

But! The first time she got picky and vomit-y I took her to the vet to check for larger issues.
posted by lillygog at 7:29 AM on August 27, 2007

One of my cats has done this a few times.

The first time, it turned out to be an intestinal obstruction that had to be surgically removed (he swallowed some weird object, though we never figured out what it was). The second time, he was diagnosed with a food allergy. He's actually just recovering from the third time, which looks like it might be due to a new food allergy.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2007

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